Practice Mindset

What does this mean? Why does how you feel matter when you are practising?

How you approach your instrument is very important. What thoughts and feelings are you associating with the instrument? What are you feeling when you are preparing to practice? Do you feel that you have to play at your very best? What if someone hears you playing something really badly? Or maybe they’ll hear you making lots of mistakes? But making mistakes is part of learning new things isn’t it? To improve at anything there are going to be mistakes or wrong notes, its part of the process isn’t it? So why does it matter if someone hears you making mistakes? If you approach your practice session thinking that you have to play perfectly every time then you are carrying tension and stress into your playing. If you actually get to do any practice at all. Sometimes this burden of having to be perfect at everything actually stops people from practicing. 

What about if you have so many things to practice that you need to practice for hours? How does that make you feel? The thought of having to work on your playing for hours at a time can be daunting. Or you may not have that amount of time each day to dedicate to practising, then what? The chances are that you won’t even make a start if you feel that you have so much to do and don’t have enough time to complete it all. This also carries tension and stress and it’s all associated with your practice time.

What about if you could approach your practice with a clear mind? No stress, no tension, no unrealistic goals or multiple hours ahead of you? Well, you can. Why not? If you have scheduled a time for practice, why not schedule an extra 10 minutes before you pick up your instrument to relax and clear your mind?

Go to your practice area and just sit. Close your eyes. Take a deep breath in and then when you exhale release your thoughts of perfection. Take another deep breath and when you exhale release your worries of other people hearing you make mistakes. Take another breath and as you exhale remind yourself that you enjoy playing music and other peoples thoughts and opinions don’t matter at all. Focus on your breath, relax your shoulders, wiggle your fingers, and let all the cares or worries from the day just fall away. Let the calm fall over your whole body. Just breathe.

When you are calm, remind yourself that you love playing music. You love the feeling you get from creating music. You love the feeling of learning something new. Picture yourself playing in your favorite setting. Imagine how good it feels to be playing. Enjoy that feeling for a moment. Keep breathing in and out as you visualize how happy you are playing and learning music.

When you are ready, open your eyes and just look at your instrument. Visualize how happy you are to finally get a chance to play it. When you feel calm and relaxed, pick it up and just play anything that comes out of your fingers. Just let your fingers do what they want to do. Enjoy it.

Now you are in a calm, relaxed and happy state of mind it is time to begin your practice. You will find that you will get more enjoyment from learning in this way than you ever could with all that extra tension that you were carrying before.